You’ve Been in an Accident, now What do You do?
Be Prepared Before the Accident
Each year you should review your auto insurance policy to make sure that you are current and are carrying the right type of coverage by law to protect yourself in the event of an accident with an insured or uninsured motorist. In Florida this means you must carry personal injury protection coverage by law, but we also strongly encourage you to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UM). UM is an optional addition to your liability coverage, but provides protection to you, resident relatives, and passengers in your vehicle-if involved in a crash with someone who has no liability coverage or not enough insurance to cover your damages.
Also, keep a safety kit (reflectors and flares) and first aid supplies in your car.
After an accident it is very important that you stay calm. The first thing you need to focus on is your safety – are you injured? If yes, stay as still as possible and call 911. Second, check your vehicle for damage – does your automobile pose an immediate danger? If yes, move as far away from the vehicle as possible.
If you are able to safely leave your vehicle, check on others involved in the accident and call 911 as soon as you are able to report the incident. You will ultimately need to exchange information with other driver(s) including things like name, phone #, vehicle registration, driver’s license number and insurance policy info. You should also take pictures of the scene / accident (ex. vehicle damage, location, injures, and people involved) with your cell phone, or make a sketch / diagram of the accident. It is also important to get names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
We strongly recommend that you don’t discuss the accident until police arrive. Once police and emergency personnel arrive, follow their instructions and seek medical attention, if necessary. Always ask the investigating officer how to obtain a copy of the accident report to provide to your insurance company.
Contacting Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. If you believe the other party is responsible for causing the accident, notify that person’s insurance company or agent/agency to file a claim. You should never give a recorded statement to the insurance company of the person who hit you. It most likely will only be used against you. Always talk to an attorney first.
When to Hire an Attorney
In some auto accident cases, it may be necessary to hire an experienced lawyer who will protect your rights and look out for your best interests. Auto accident victims and/or their families often hire an attorney when fault for the accident is be contested; when they have sustained major property damage; when their out-of-pocket expenses are exceeding settlement talk offers; when serious or permanent personal injuries or death are a result of the incident; they decide they want to take the case to court; and when the insurance company pushes back, delays or denies coverage. Your attorney can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed.